Although plagued with problems, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice mostly delivers on its promise of two superhero icons at war in a world of Gods and Vigilantes succumbed to fear and rage.
There is something interesting happening in the DC Universe. Where most superhero fare (and its many offshoots) tend to ignore (or lambast) the Christian concept of God, this relaunched superhero movie franchise takes on the seemingly taboo issue to interesting results. Man of Steel was filled with Christian iconography and even featured the rather startling scene of Superman sitting in quiet reflection inside a chapel.
Where that film blended theological and existential themes to mostly dreary results, its (somewhat) sequel Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice tackles the subject of rage and fear towards the all-powerful above us with even darker consequences that is both intriguing and problematic.
Brilliantly taking the scenes of wanton mass destruction from the end of Man of Steel as its emotional and ideological starting point, Batman v Superman poses the question: what would you do if you knew how to kill God? That is what runs through the mind of Bruce Wayne aka Batman (Ben Affleck) whose witness of the inadvertent collateral damage from Superman’s (Henry Cavill) attempt to save the world from alien invaders, ignites a burning hatred that sets a collision course between these two superhero titans.
Of course where there are superheroes there must be a supervillain, and once again its uber baddy Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) who uses his wealth, power and brilliant evil mind to drive a further wedge between capes red and black, while setting his own sinister scheme for world domination in action. In a film filled with weak spots, the casting of Eisenberg is its biggest kryptonite, the Oscar nominated actor of motor mouth and twitchy demeanour confusing intimidating for annoying. His portrayal of Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg in The Social Network had more villainous weight.
The films heroes fare much better, with Ben Affleck especially silencing his naysayers with a fierce, dark, growling portrayal of the Dark Knight that ranks amongst the best (if not the best) of the iconic character’s various cinematic interpretations. Cavill’s reprisal of Clark Kent/Superman is also good, his portrayal of a conflicted and guilt-ridden god amongst men whose attempt at being the saviour mankind has waited for resulting in fear rather than admiration. Lastly the introduction of Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman works gangbusters, the Israeli actress bringing attitude and some needed personality to moments when things get a little too dark.
“A little too dark” is a major complaint many have against Batman vs Superman, and with good cause. Director Zack Snyder has framed a world of heavy themes and dire consequences, his now famous imagery following suit with his vision of the DC Universe one that is plunged in darkness. That’s not to sat Snyder doesn’t cut loose, with so many a superhero at his disposal going all out in action packed smackdowns that can be thrillingly cool, or in some instances ridiculously over the top.
Regardless, Snyder has brought a different edge to the superhero genre, one where the questions of what drives these men of steel and creatures of the night to do what they do and believe what they believe. There is something to admire in that.